Oct 16, 2020 @ 13:19

Manila barangay officials lose 20-year fight to stop demolition of homes for South Harbor widening project

The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the petition of the officials of Barangay 650, Zone 68 of Manila seeking to stop the impending demolition of the houses and structures within the South Harbor Expanded Port Zone to make way for its widening.

In a recent 20-page decision, the CA 2nd Division affirmed the September 16, 2019 ruling of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 that dismissed the barangay officials’ petition for prohibition against the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the city government, and the National Housing Authority (NHA).

The CA rejected the barangay officials’ contention that the intended demolition was illegal because of the failure to consult the settlers and provide adequate relocation and financial assistance.

It found that the respondents did not commit any grave abuse of discretion as Executive Order No. 321 authorized the PPA to “implement a program for the proper zoning and utilization of the limited port areas in the said Port Zone.”

It was undisputed that the settlers were occupying the sidewalks of 11th and 12th Streets “without any title thereto,” the court said.

The CA said the barangay officials cannot invoke the provisions of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 because Section 5 of the law explicitly exempts “lands which are used, reserved or otherwise set aside for government offices, facilities and other installations.”

Even if the law were applied, the CA said Section 28 allows summary demolition and eviction when the settlers occupy public places like sidewalks, roads or streets.

“The sidewalks and streets/roads of 11th Street and 12th Street occupied by petitioners-appellants are public places and the clearing or demolition of illegal structures built thereon partakes of an abatement of public nuisance,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta.

The CA said PPA had given notice, conducted consultants, held dialogues regarding financial assistance, and compensated those who moved out of the area.

It did not fault PPA for failing to provide relocation, because Section 27 of the Local Government Code only required it in cases of projects and programs that may cause pollution, deplete non-renewable resources, result in the loss of crop land or forest cover, eradicate species, and call for the eviction of a particular group of people.

“There is no dispute that respondent-appellee PPA’s widening project along 11th Street and 12th Street, South Harbor Expanded Port Zone, Port Area, Manila itself is not environmentally critical; hence, it does not belong to any of the six types of projects mentioned in the law,” read the decision.

The case was first initiated in July 2000, and was archived in September 2001 after the parties agreed to discuss the possible settlement of the problem. But, the Port Manager in August 2006 directed residents to remove their dwelling places. The RTC in October 2007 ordered the PPA and the Metropolitan Manila Development (MMDA) to maintain the status quo.

The parties tried to reach another agreement in July 2014, but the case was again revived in 2017.

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